The Universal Spirit

by Thomas Troward

2: The Science of Spirit

Contents List:

The Ultimate Analysis
The Root of Materialism
The Science of Living Spirit

Return to:

"Cover" of Book 16
Ardue Library
Ardue Site Plan

See also:

Symbols, Truth, and Growth
The Golden Proportion


What, then, is this central principle which is at the root of all things? It is Life — but not life as we recognise it in particular forms of manifestation. It is something more interior and concentrated than that. It is that "Unity of the Spirit" which is unity simply because it has not yet passed into diversity. Perhaps this is not an easy idea to grasp, but it is the root of all scientific conception of spirit; for without it there is no common principle to which we can refer the innumerable forms of manifestation that spirit assumes.

It is the conception of Life as the sum-total of all its undistributed powers, being as yet none of these in particular, but all of them in potentiality. This is, no doubt, a highly abstract idea, but it is essentially that of the centre from which growth takes place by expansion in every direction. This is that last residuum which defies all our powers of analysis. This is truly "the unknowable", not in the sense of the unthinkable but of the unanalysable. It is the subject of perception — but not of knowledge — if by knowledge we mean that faculty which estimates the relations between things. Here we have passed beyond any questions of relations, and are face to face with the Absolute.

This innermost of all is Absolute Spirit. It is Life as yet not differentiated into any specific mode; it is the Universal Life which pervades all things and is at the heart of all appearances.

To come into the knowledge of this is to come into the secret of power and to enter into the secret place of Living Spirit. Is it illogical first to call this the unknowable, and then to speak of coming into the knowledge of it? Perhaps so, but no less a writer than St Paul has set the example; for does he not speak of the final result of all searching into the heights and depths and lengths and breadths of the inner side of things as being to attain the knowledge of the Love which passeth knowledge? [Eph 3:14-19 — Ed.] If he is thus boldly illogical in phrase, though not in fact, may we not also speak of knowing "the unknowable"? We may: for this knowledge is the root of all other knowledge.

The Ultimate Analysis

The presence of this undifferentiated Universal Life-power is the final axiomatic fact to which all our analysis must ultimately conduct us. On whatever plane we make our analysis it must always abut on pure essence, pure energy, pure Being — that which knows itself and recognises itself, but which cannot dissect itself because it is not built up of parts but is ultimately integral. It is pure Unity.

But analysis which does not lead to synthesis is merely destructive: it is the child wantonly pulling the flower to pieces and throwing away the fragments. It is not the botanist, also pulling the flower to pieces, but building up in his mind from those carefully studied fragments a vast synthesis of the constructive power of Nature, embracing the laws of the formation of all flower-forms. The value of analysis is to lead us to the original starting-point of that which we analyse, and so to teach us the laws by which its final form springs from this centre.

Knowing the law of its construction, we turn our analysis into a synthesis, and we thus gain a power of building up which must always be beyond the reach of those who regard "the unknowable" as if it were "not-being".

The Root of Materialism

This idea of the unknowable is the root of all materialism; yet no scientific man, however materialistic his proclivities, treats the unanalysable residuum thus when he meets it in the experiments of his laboratory. On the contrary, he makes this final unanalysable fact the basis of his synthesis. He finds that in the last resort it is energy of some kind, whether as heat or as motion; but he does not throw up his scientific pursuits because he cannot analyse it further. He adopts the precisely opposite course, and realises that the conservation of energy, its indestructibility, and the impossibility of adding to or subtracting from the sum-total of energy in the world, is the one solid and unchanging fact on which alone the edifice of physical science can be built up. He bases all his knowledge upon his knowledge of "the unknowable". And rightly so, for if he could analyse this energy into yet further factors, then the same problem of "the unknowable" would meet him still. All our progress consists in continually pushing the unknowable, in the sense of the unanalysable residuum, a step further back; but that there should be no ultimate unanalysable residuum anywhere is an inconceivable idea.

The Science of Living Spirit

In thus realising the undifferentiated unity of Living Spirit as the central fact of any system, whether the system of the entire Universe or of a single organism, we are therefore following a strictly scientific method. We pursue our analysis until it necessarily leads us to this final fact, and then we accept this fact as the basis of our synthesis. The Science of Spirit is thus not one whit less scientific than the Science of Matter; and, moreover, it starts from the same initial fact, the fact of a Living Energy which defies definition or explanation wherever we find it. However, Spiritual Science differs from the Science of Matter in that it contemplates this energy under an aspect of responsive intelligence which does not fall within the scope of physical science as such.

The Science of Spirit and the Science of Matter are not opposed. They are complementary, and neither is fully comprehensible without some knowledge of the other. Being really but two portions of one whole, they insensibly shade off into each other in a border-land where no arbitrary line can be drawn between them. Science studied in a truly scientific spirit, following out its own deductions unflinchingly to their legitimate conclusions, will always reveal the twofold aspect of things, the inner and outer; and it is only a truncated and maimed science that refuses to recognise both.

The study of the material world is not mere Materialism if it be allowed to progress to its legitimate issue. Materialism is that limited view of the Universe which will not admit the existence of anything but mechanical effects and mechanical causes; and any system which recognises no power higher than the physical forces of nature must logically result in having no higher ultimate appeal than to physical force, or to fraud as its alternative.

I speak, of course, of the tendency of the system, not of the morality of individuals, which is often very far in advance of the systems they profess. But as we would avoid the propagation of a mode of thought whose effects history shows only too plainly, whether in the Italy of the Borgias, or the France of the First Revolution, or the Commune of the Franco-Prussian War, we should set ourselves to study that inner and spiritual aspect of things which is the basis of a system whose logical results are truth and love instead of perfidy and violence.


Some of us, doubtless, have often wondered why the Heavenly Jerusalem is described in the Book of Revelations as a cube — "the length and the breadth and the height of it are equal" [Rev. 21:16 — Ed.]. This is because the cube is the figure of perfect stability, and thus represents Truth, which can never be overthrown. Turn it on what side you will, it still remains the perfect cube, always standing upright; you cannot upset it. This figure, then, represents the manifestation in concrete solidity of that central life-giving energy which is not itself any one plane but generates all planes: the planes of the above and below and of all four sides. But it is at the same time a city, a place of habitation; and this is because that which is "within" is the Living Spirit which has its dwelling there.

As one plane of the cube implies all the other planes and also "the within", so any plane of manifestation implies the others and always refers back to that "origin within" which generates them all. Now, if we would make any progress in the spiritual side of science — and every department of science has its spiritual side — we must always keep our minds fixed upon this "innermost within" which contains the potential of all outward manifestation, the "fourth dimension" which generates the cube.

Our common forms of speech show how intuitively we do this. We speak of the spirit in which an act is done, of entering into the spirit of a game, of the spirit of the time, and so on. Everywhere our intuition points out the spirit as the true essence of things; and it is only when we commence arguing about them from without, instead of from within, that our true perception of their nature is lost.

The scientific study of spirit consists in following up intelligently and according to definite method the same principle that now only flashes upon us at intervals fitfully and vaguely. When we once realise that this Universal and unlimited power of spirit is at the root of all things and of ourselves also, then we have obtained the key to the whole position; and, however far we may carry our studies in spiritual science, we shall nowhere find anything else but particular developments of this one Universal principle. "The Kingdom of Heaven is within you".